FAQ’s on Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis occurs when a patient’s spinal canal has become more narrow than usual and is applying pressure to the spinal cord. Narrowing can squeeze or irritate the spinal nerves, which branch off the spinal cord into the empty space of the canal.
Irritation of, or pressure on, these nerves can produce severe pain for patients and may cause other symptoms based on where the narrowing occurs.
What are the causes of Spinal Stenosis?
The most common causes of stenosis in the spine area thickening of spinal ligaments, the formation of bone spurs due to osteoarthritis, or from a bulging disc swelling into the spinal canal.
What are the symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
Symptoms will differ based on which area of the spine stenosis is occurring in. If occurring in the lower back or neck, numbness or weakness may be felt in the corresponding limbs. Pain localized to the area of compression will also likely be present.
How is Spinal Stenosis diagnosed?
A diagnosis of spinal stenosis for lower back pain can only be made if neurogenic claudication (inflammation of the spinal nerves resulting in stenosis) and/or cervical myelopathy (pinching one or more neck nerves) are present. (Spinal Stenosis, 2014) CT myelogram or MRI diagnostic imaging testing can confirm the presence of swelling or inflammation.
What are the treatment options for Spinal Stenosis?
Medication: Patients who are having only minor symptoms may be able to obtain relief through medication, with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs providing the most relief. In some cases, anti-inflammatory medication may be able to slow the progression of the stenosis by reducing the amount of inflammation present. After a clinical diagnosis is given by one of our physicians, patients with moderate to severe symptoms may be given prescription-strength medications to help alleviate their pain.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy as a therapeutic tool for spinal stenosis includes exercise to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine and flexion exercises. Patients who have irritated spinal nerves can find a large amount of relief with flexion exercises, which function by having the patient bend forward to increase the size of the passageways naturally surrounding nerves. Increasing the size of these passageways can reduce the stress being placed on the nerve, providing symptomatic relief.
Physical therapy is also a crucial tool in managing the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis with a goal in mind of preventing the need for surgery. In a study of 244 participants with spinal stenosis, physical therapy was used in the first six weeks of treatment for 90 of them. Each of these patients were able to postpone the likelihood of surgery at least 1 year, making physical therapy one of the most useful therapeutic tools our clinic offers to patients (Associations between physical therapy and long-term outcomes for individuals with lumbar spinal stenosis, 2013).
Epidural Injection: If conservative treatments do not prove effective enough to obtain the desired amount of relief, patients may have an epidural injection suggested as treatment. A lumbar epidural steroid injection is able to provide direct relief by numbing the problematic area, and has been shown to be a very effective treatment option for patients of any age. Of the patients examined, over 70% reported pain relief of varying degrees at the second and eighth week following injection. (Correlation Between Severity of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis and Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection, 2014)
Minimally Invasive Laminotomy and foraminotomy: Used as an alternative to open decompression, this minimally invasive procedure offers a really source of pain relief with a shorter procedure time and less operative complication, reducing a portion of the risk associated with spinal surgery (Minimally invasive surgery through endoscopic laminotomy and foraminotomy for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis, 2013).